…check its records let’s begin. Party on party people let me hear some noise! DC’s in the house jump jump rejoice!!! There’s a party over here, a party over there…
I am excited to tell you about an event coming up in Seattle that Shauna is administrating as Alumni Outreach Coordinator at The Seattle School and where I will be speaking. It’s called Symposium: An Intersection of Conversation and Innovation.
Symposium were forums in ancient Greece for conversations between philosophers, poets, musicians, and leaders that would fuel innovation and imagination.
At the inaugural Symposia last year, Shauna spoke about “How Coding Trauma Into Language Impacts the Healing Process.” You can watch the video of her message here. And this year, I will be addressing “Metaphor in Psychotherapy: A Bridge Between Thinking & Feeling.”
To learn more about this event, including a list of the presenters and their topics, and how you can buy tickets to attend, please visit: http://theseattleschool.edu/event/symposia2016/?instance_id=29185
This event will also be webcast. So, stay tuned to our Facebook page for how you can participate from afar.
I am excited to be a part of this event hosted by my beloved graduate school, as well as tickled that Shauna and I get to participate in an event together. It’s been a long time since our shared youth group endeavors. Tag Team, it’s so good to be back again!
Karl and I had just sat down to take a brief reprieve from rigorous yard work. Lucy and Peter were across the street riding their bikes and we had just a few moments to ourselves before returning to the demands of landscaping and parenting. For our snack I had brought out full water bottles, ripe apples, and decadent dark chocolate for each of us. I started by savoring the chocolate first. Then, moved on to eating the apple. Mid-bite, with my feet reclining on the patio furniture, we heard Lucy scream that Peter had fallen. Naturally, Karl and I hopped to our feet and ran across the street to find him limping, crying and bloodied from a tough tumble he had just taken. Karl swept him up to carry him home and begin the doctoring and Lucy and I grabbed their bikes and helmets and trailed them not far behind. After leaning the bikes against the wall of the house, I rushed in to find Peter and Karl in the bathroom inspecting the damage. Peter’s lip was already cut and swollen and through his tears it was difficult to see what the damage was. Karl sat on the ledge of the bathtub and put Peter on his lap to calm and soothe him while I dipped a Q-tip in Vaseline to see if I could lift up his lip and see if his braces had cut all the way through. Surprisingly, they had not. However, he did have two splits in his top gums and would have a bee sting-like swollen lip for a few days.
Once my nursing was complete, I carried Peter out to the couch and got him tucked in with a blanket, a cartoon and an otter pop to numb the pain. That’s when I found Lucy curled up on the chair in the corner hugging her knees to her chest. Her tender heart can hardly tolerate anyone’s suffering, much less her baby brother’s. I worry about her as she will inevitably be exposed to the realities of this world where suffering is the norm. I asked her what was wrong and picking her up to sit on my lap, she explained how helpless she felt and that she just wished there was something she could have done, or could do next time. She explored the idea of always having an emergency kit with her wherever she went, including a wet rag. Those moments after she called for us and when we arrived were wrought with a powerlessness she wasn’t ready to encounter again soon. After she had been heard and understood, with a little extra squeeze and snuggle, I also tucked her in to her chair with a snack and her .mp3 player.
Karl had left the kids in my hands and rushed out to the backyard to finish cleaning up before the sun went down. I started dinner and was heading out to help him when I thought I’d save myself a trip and use the restroom before I headed out back. When I walked into the bathroom where the madness had been a half hour earlier, I saw it. There amongst the bloodied rag and Q-tips and toothbrush and toothpaste and other paraphernalia found in most bathrooms was an apple that had been half eaten. I looked and cocked my head to the right at the same time and wondered where it came from. Then, it dawned on me. I never set the apple down when I ran from the backyard to check on Peter. I carried it with me in one hand while I pushed the bike back to the house with the other. I didn’t set it down until I picked up the Q-tip and dipped it in the Vaseline.
The sight of a half-eaten apple on the counter in the bathroom struck me as so odd. Many thoughts and questions flooded through my mind. Why didn’t I set the apple down when I ran? Why did I hold on to the apple as long as I did? Was I being absent minded, or simply flooded with survival hormones that made my actions nearly uncontrollable? Or was there a fierce commitment to finishing the apple that I had started?
I imagine the apple is representative of many things in my life. I work hard as a wife, a mother, a woman, a therapist, an amateur landscaper. Then, when I attempt to settle for just a moment, to give myself what it is that I need, I’m often interrupted by ______________________ (fill in the blank). Yet, it is at that moment of interruption that I still must declare that I have a choice: to let go of what I need, carry it with me, or perhaps chuck it over the fence and grab another one later.
Finding that apple in the bathroom was representative of the choice I made in a moment. Something deep inside me chose to hold on to that apple. I chose to be as unwaveringly committed to my own pleasure, delight, rest, and sustenance, as I did the care, treatment and provision for another.
I choose me. I choose you. I choose both.
I realize that I am in the minority, but I have absolutely zero interest in watching football. The reasons for this are legion, but primarily, I don’t like watching football simply because I’d rather be doing something different instead. And when everyone else is glued to their screens, it means they are not on the streets, or in stores, or at parks. So the city is empty and quiet and I feel like I have the whole place all to myself.
Last year, when the Denver Broncos (my hometown team) and the Seattle Seahawks (my current city team) faced off in the Super Bowl, I was gleefully taking my time walking around a nearby lake enjoying the quiet and stillness and silence. Last week, during the final playoff game, I was meandering through Home Depot picking paint colors for a new project and tickled that I was the only one in line at the paint counter. I haven’t yet planned my adventures for this year’s Super Bowl Sunday, but am excited to begin imagining how I am going to spend my time alone.
Super Bowl Sunday is just one of very few days out of the year when I don’t feel guilty for doing exactly what I want. My husband and kids like watching football and end up seeing them on the big screen at a church party, or over at a friend’s house. And since they are so excited about watching the game and being fed by the potluck tasties, I don’t feel like my presence is required, needed or even missed!
I recognize that as I write this, I am both acknowledging and somewhat accepting of the reality that I don’t carve out very much time for myself; that I have to pamper myself only when everyone else is otherwise being cared for. I look forward to Super Bowl Sunday every year as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. Am I equating my work as a mother, a wife, and a financial provider as the same as being in jail? Maybe. Yes, definitely. All the time? No. But women are socially and culturally constructed to be care takers of everyone but themselves. We are nurses and therapists, cheerleaders and teachers, maids and cooks, seamstresses and bankers, decorators and curators, artists and landscapers, gardeners and excavators. As mothers, as wives, as workers and as friends, we spend a lot of our time, our energy, and our finances to provide for the needs of others. When do we invest those kinds of resources in ourselves?
When my daughter’s tennis shoes showed signs of wear and tear, I went to the store that day to find her a new pair. And yet, I have chronically been walking around in flats that have an outright hole in the bottom of the sole. This dichotomy in treatment seems unnecessary. Why did I not get myself a new pair of shoes at the same time? Did I not have enough money? No. Was it an extra trip just for myself? No. Did I go to a store that only sold girl’s shoes? No – because my 10-year old and I now wear the same size. So, why did I not feel the urgency for to care for myself, but I did for my daughter?
I understand that being mama bears and lionesses means we care for our cubs and defend and protect them at all costs. But how can a weak, depleted, fatigued and sick mama take care of anyone? So, really, is it just that we aren’t that weak or that depleted or that fatigued or that sick? How bad do we have to get before we begin taking care of ourselves?
I spent the first week of this year detoxing off of caffeine and sugar. Maybe sometime I will write about the exquisite pain I was in for five days straight as a result of that decision. But in brief,
I realized that addiction to caffeine and sugar was just a way to keep going – to push through the weakness, the depletion, the fatigue and sickness. And when I arrested my use of those things, I crashed and burned and realized how poorly I had been caring for my body, soul and spirit.
I expect myself and have expectations thrust upon me to be a superwoman and the only fuel I have to keep going is several cups of coffee and some gum drops? That seems absolutely insane. But I have been a mother for almost 11 years and a wife for 15 and a student and a professional and on and on, and have known no other way how to play those roles and take care of myself at the same time.
So, I start by not watching football. I start with one day a year that I look forward to, and cherish and hold sacred as a day where I can begin taking care of my needs, replenishing what has been lost, honoring my hard work and taking time to pause and ask myself, “What is it that you need or want to do with yourself by yourself this Super Bowl Sunday?” I can’t wait to hear what my long lost long-suffering self has to say.
Something extraordinary happened last weekend. It was the 2015 Women’s World Cup Draw. I stood behind our couch ironing clothes as my 14 year old sat before me glued to the television. The broadcast opened with a panel of former and current female soccer elites. Their anticipation and excitement for the draw matched our own. We were within minutes of knowing how the first round of matches would line-up when I felt an all-too-familiar lump in my chest. It’s a physiological sensation I tend to get when an unexpected emotion is about to surge through my body and being. I couldn’t completely discern the emotion in those moments that tears began to well up in my smiling eyes. Was it gratitude? Anticipation? Joy? I wasn’t quite sure…but I know what you’re thinking- Really? All of this emotion over the Women’s World Cup? And the answer is YES. And not exactly.
I must disclose that I did not really grow up loving soccer. I was an athlete in my early years, no question about that. I spent most of my time in dance studios, including the one my mom owned for a period of time. As I approached middle school, I discovered I was fast and strong and tall and determined on both the basketball court and the soccer field. My father had a brief basketball career extending beyond college to the professional realm of European sports. My mother was a dancer, turned aerobic instructor in the eighties before beginning her career in nursing (I should mentioned she competed in Rebok’s National Aerobic Championship when I was still in elementary school). So it was sort of in my blood, but I never really landed and settled onto either the dance floor, the soccer field or the basketball court. Looking back, I was probably most physically suited for soccer, but by the end of my eighth grade year, when it was time to anticipate athletics in High School, one of my girlfriends asked if I’d tryout for cheerleading with her. With little personal direction and having an adolescent-hormone-bathed-brain that already identified the amount of attention the cheerleaders received from the male athletes, I hopped right on that train heading no where good. Thus marking the end of my athletic opportunities. Though, I should mention (or brag) that I did later play on an adult co-ed soccer league in the beginning of my marriage and also went on to fulfill a bucket-list item when I danced for a hip-hop company after having my first two babies.
I promise there was a point to that personal narrative detour. As I stood at my ironing board that morning, peering at the screen that was showcasing such strong, talented and beautiful female athletes, it dawned on me that I couldn’t recall a single strong female role model from my childhood memory. I’m not suggesting that there weren’t women worth admiring and looking up to when I was a developing girl, but I don’t recall being exposed to any that awakened my heart, strengthened my hope or focused my dreams. I pondered for a moment how my life may have taken a very different path had I been witness to more female narratives of greatness back then. In a split-second I was overwhelmed with the importance for girls to WITNESS the possiblities for their lives. We need more women in the pulpit. We need women in governement…yes, we need a female president. We need women’s voices to be present in the media. We need women’s sports to be televised. We need coming-of-age stories that showcase a female narrative. We need Oprah. We need Katniss Everdeen. We all need more women.
Nearly three years ago, my husband drove our three older girls to Utah so they could watch the US Women play in a friendly against Canada prior to the Olympics. Alex Morgan was being interviewed just before the game was about to begin directly in front of where my girls were all sitting. It was a moment they will never forget. We realized then that we would need to be intentional about exposing them to the narratives of a multitude of strong, determined and talented women, but my heart aches for a time when such intentionality is no longer necessary. I long for the day that women’s narratives hold equal weight in a world where they carry half the sky.
My 3 loves taking a photo of one of their heroes (standing behind a fan with a ridiculously large hat)!
Every time I go back to Colorado for a visit, I have a standing date with my friend Colleen Gottlob. We each commit to walking together around “our” lake in Littleton at least once, even if my visit is only for 48 hours. We call it “our” lake, because after Lucy was born, we walked either that lake, or the track right next to it nearly five times every week for almost five years up until I moved to Washington. On those walks, I got to know a lot about Colleen. At 55, she can add grandmother to her other roles of sister, wife, mother, aunt, avid runner, voracious reader, encourager, friend and fan. On my last visit, I asked her if she would be willing to share her story. She seemed surprised because she didn’t know what there was to tell. I reminded her that she is the most loyal, supportive and encouraging person I know and I would like others to get to know her as well. She agreed to let me interview her via email over a couple of week’s time, and this is what transpired.
K: Colleen, recently you told me that you just received the best compliment someone could have ever given you. Tell me what was said and why it was so important.
C: While I was working at an outdoor buying show for Boone Mountain Sports and 32nd West, I went over to say hello to a woman, Susan, whom I only know as an acquaintance. She said she had seen me walking around and been trying to figure out where she knew me from. Even though she couldn’t place where we had met, she said what she remembered about me was my kind face. I think that was a big compliment. It was not about my outfit or my fitness or my shoes. It was about me.
K: So, it seems easy for people to comment on outward appearances, but less on the character of a person. Why do you think that is?
C: Krista, this question is hard. I am going to try to think this through… it is easy to compliment people on their outfit, shoes, purse, new hair cut or color. But, to compliment them about what is on the inside, you would have to know them or have been paying attention to them. That takes some time, generally.
I love the opportunities I have had to meet people in so many situations. Some I may just get to have a conversation with only one time. You have to open yourself to the possibility of maybe getting laughed at or facing a negative reaction or even a bit of heart hurt. I think I have always been willing to risk my heart. And I have received from it. I have just a few couldn’t-ask-for-better-friends. And I am thankful for them every day.
K: I’m so glad that you mentioned the risk required in order to be known by others. How have you calculated that risk? In other words, have you chosen certain people to open up to? I am not sure I am so “open”. What makes someone safe for that risk? Or worthy of it?
C: I don’t think about the risk at all. You never know what some people are going through or their past life experiences. I try not to take things personally. So, I don’t know that I choose anyone. I think they are just where I am. If someone becomes a friend, I am thankful. If not, there will be another person sometime. The ones that become a friend are very important to me. I am very thankful for my close friends. I feel like I love them like a mother lion. I am on their side and love them no matter what.
K: Before I ask you about your mother lion prowess that I have experienced from you, I’m curious about what your risk has afforded you in relationships. You said, “I think I have always been willing to risk my heart. And I have received from it.” Can you give me some examples of what you have received?
C: Well, I received your friendship as a gift and you are one of the most important people in my life.
K: I like how your answers bring me down from the clouds and back to reality. You’re right. Our friendship was a risk that has paid off immensely. Maybe someday I will write about how our friendship came to be. I’m glad you took that risk for me.
I have often struggled with an inability to receive. I have believed that somehow, I’m not worth the attention or the money or the time and effort that others want to spend on me. Thanks for modeling what it looks like to receive goodness from others for whom you have risked your heart. Speaking of modeling…back to your mother lion prowess. I have seen this side of you in action with your kids. One thing you always did that I’ve tried to model is jumping through whatever hoops necessary to just see your girls, even if it was only for five minutes. That simple act showed me how a mother can be her kids’ biggest fan just by making time to see their faces and kiss their cheeks. Where and/or when did you learn how to do that? Who has been a model for you?
C: I think this takes a couple answers. The first one is a man I worked with when I was about 20. I worked for a veterinarian for 7 years from when I was 18-25. I did front desk, tech work and some light bookkeeping. I can’t even remember his name. It might have been Jim. He was one of the techs. Every now and then his young son would come in. I noted that he always made a big effort for his son and would really get down low to hug his child every time he saw him. He mentioned it in passing one time as he was giving his son a big hug. Jim told me his father didn’t hug him and he didn’t want to be the same with his children.
The second part of my answer is that I am not sure. I love my children. I always wanted them to feel special. Every child should feel special by their parents/grandparents. I wanted them to feel like I loved them unconditionally. I do. I am not sure I have felt that a bunch in my life from others. There are only a few that make me feel that way.
I have known some children (roughly the same age as my children) who have lived with me for a time. One of them calls me every mother’s day. I also love them a bunch. I would stick up for any of them and be on their side and hopefully they feel the lion love. There are also a few adults. When they trust that I will (hopefully) never hurt them, they fall into a lion love category for me…
Who was a role model? Possibly, the people that treated my children the same way as I tried to. My oldest daughter’s high school counselor was still calling to check in on my oldest daughter when she was 25. She was someone that I really admire. Another time, the same counselor took care of a problem for a student that was not in her half of the alphabetical part of her kids. I will always remember her for how she went above and beyond. She was also completely trustworthy. My current employers were also a wonderful example. In a time that I was separated, they (among others) took care of some financial things for me and my kids. They also took a lot of care of the many, many young people who worked for them…really cared for them, talked to them, including my youngest child…including many who still come visit them when they are in town.
K: You said that when others trust that you won’t hurt them, they fall into the lion love category. That sounds like part of your protection of them comes when they trust you. That is a brand new thought/concept for me. Can you say a little more? I’d like to understand better.
C: Let me think. I hope they know that I love them. I hope they know that I would not hurt them intentionally. I hope and pray I say the right things and help them make good decisions. I hope I help them with their self-esteem. I hope I am positive. I hope I am discerning. I feel like I am encouraging. Some of them are just in my world for a time – so, I guess it gets to be a bit of a friendship for just a little while.
K: I know our friendship seemed like it might have been for only a little while, but it still stands strong even with my move away from Colorado. So, if you had a chance to share one last piece of advice or thoughts to younger women and/or moms, what would you tell them about friendship.
C: Try to remember that nobody is perfect. We all screw up. Accept your friends despite their faults. Try to remember them, write to them, call them, send them a “thinking of you” text or card. Try to not let time go by without checking in. Pray for them. Make time for them.
K: So, what you’re saying is just…
C: Love them.
K: Again, you bring a simplicity to your encouragement – not denying that loving is challenging, but that nevertheless it can and should be given liberally and without condition. Thank you so much for extending that kind of love and friendship to me. I hope others are inspired to go forward and do the same. And blessed are the ones who get your lion love – they will have their biggest fan in you – indeed, a gift worthy of receiving.
Colleen Gottlob is a mother to two young women and grandmother to one little lady. When she is not working as a merchandise buyer, you can find her running the mountainous trails of Evergreen with her favorite four-legged companion, Tillie. Her favorite drink is iced Bhakti Chai.